Let’s Talk with James M Jackson


by James M Jackson

I have entered the final self-revision phase of my fifth Seamus McCree novel. It’s the last step before I send it to my editor. Over the years I have honed my revision process, making it much more efficient.

I’m a pantser (or as some prefer, “organic writer”), so I don’t create an outline before I start writing; I begin with only a basic premise. Ninety thousand words later, I’ve found my story. I’ve tried outlining, but it’s a waste of time for me. As I write the first draft, I discover new things about my characters and their stories. Soon the outline became as useful as a losing lottery ticket.

One of my favorite lines about writing comes from Justice Louis D. Brandeis: “There is no great writing, only great rewriting.” I’ve distilled my process so I start with the largest issues and work my way down to the tiny nits that can make the difference between a frustrating read and an enjoyable one.

I share my process in the online course I’ve taught for chapters of Romance Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. (I’m offering it again this October. The details about the month-long course can be found at https://jamesmjackson.com/ .) The final step of my revision process, and the one I am performing right now, is fixing the nits—putting the final spit shine on the writing.

For example, I don’t need to say, “She shrugged her shoulders or she nodded her head.” Have you ever seen anyone shrug a knee or nod a foot? Me neither. Shrugging or nodding is sufficient (and should not be done too often).
With each new manuscript, I fall in love with some word or phrase that I overuse. Every novel has its own unique phrase that I need to root out. But I also have bad habits that I can only kill with conscious effort.

For example, I personally like flexibility and carry it over into my writing by including the word “about,” as in, “He walked about a mile.” Readers know my character didn’t get out his ruler to make sure he walked 5,280 feet and 0 inches. In any given novel, I’ll include about about a thousand times.

Do you have any pet peeves about authors’ writing styles that you wish they would change?

Oh, and today (Sept 7) is the last day of the $0.99 Kindle sale of Ant Farm, first novel in the Seamus McCree series. If you haven’t read Seamus yet, go ahead a risk a buck; you might find a new series to enjoy. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0749QYX14


Also, our Booklover’s Bench monthly gift card giveaway of $25 to either Amazon or Barnes and Noble is going on right now through September 18.  CLICK HERE to enter.